Legal

Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun Latest Casino to Sue Insurer Over COVID-19 Losses

The tribal owners of Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun gaming property have filed a lawsuit against an insurance company after it failed to cover millions of dollars in coronavirus-related claims.

Connecticut Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher, shown here. He will hold a hearing in August over a lawsuit filed by the Mashantucket Pequot tribe after its insurer failed to cover COVID-19 losses at Foxwoods casino. (Image: The Wall Street Journal)

The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority filed the court action Friday in New London, Conn. Superior Court against Factory Mutual Insurance Co., according to the Associated Press. The insurer is headquartered in Johnston, R.I.

The lawsuit resembles one filed by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, which operates Connecticut’s Foxwoods Resort Casino. That pending court action is seeking to cover an estimated $76 million in losses experienced at the gaming property and similar businesses.

The Mashantucket Pequot litigation was filed in February and is also against Factory Mutual.

Lost Casino Revenue

Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun lost revenue when each closed in March 2020 for about 11 weeks because of the pandemic.

The policy is supposed to pay for as much as $1.655 billion in coverage per occurrence, the Mashantucket lawsuit claims. But Factory Mutual has responded the disputed claims are not covered under the casino’s insurance policy, the AP reported.

Factory Mutual wants to see the Mashantucket legal action tossed out of court, the AP adds. The issue will be addressed by state Judge Thomas Moukawsher in a scheduled Aug. 2 court hearing.

Insurance Policy Questions

At question is what is covered under an “all-risk” insurance policy, reported The Day, a Connecticut newspaper based in New London. A similar question is how “business interruption” insurance coverage is defined, and what it excludes.

Factory Mutual, like many other insurers, has argued viruses are excluded from coverage. Damage from hurricanes is more likely to be covered by such policies, many insurers have argued.

The Mashantucket case was moved from New London Superior Court to Hartford, Conn. Superior Court because of the complexity of the litigation, The Day said.

Several Casino Operators Sue Insurers

Other US casino operators have also filed lawsuits against their insurance companies related to COVID-19 claims the insurers failed to cover.

Earlier this year, Caesars Entertainment sued several insurance firms. Caesars claims the insurers refused to pay out on an estimated $2 billion in losses linked to the pandemic. The defendants in the Nevada court action include companies such as Allianz, Chubb, Aspen, and Lloyds of London. In total, Caesars named 60 insurers in the litigation, the AP said.

Circus Circus owner Phil Ruffin sued the AIG insurance company on similar grounds. US District Judge Jennifer Dorsey dismissed the breach of contract case against AIG Specialty Insurance Co. But Ruffin’s attorneys were appealing the judge’s ruling, the AP said.

Ruffin’s Treasure Island sued Affiliated FM Insurance Co. over disputed losses. As of earlier this year, the case was pending in Las Vegas federal court.

In an analysis of several court actions prompted by uncovered coronavirus losses, The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year that insurance companies won some 80 percent of an estimated 200 lawsuits.

Several state legislatures, such as in New Jersey, have considered legislation to ensure that pandemic losses would be covered under business interruption policies.

Ed Silverstein

Gaming Law, Tribal Gaming, Crime, Gaming Research----An award-winning journalist with credits ranging from the Associated Press to American Lawyer Media, Ed joined the Casino.org news team in 2019 with decades of legal reporting expertise under his belt. His past reporting and editing assignments include Cowles Business Media, Columbia University Press, the Connecticut Post, and Southern Connecticut Newspapers, Inc. Besides the law and its application to the gaming industry, Ed’s areas of expertise span business, courts, crime, politics, education, and state and local government. With an undergraduate degree from the University of Connecticut (where he now lives), and master’s degrees from Harvard and Yale, Ed’s professional awards include recognition from the New England Press Association and New England AP News Executives. Email: ed.silverstein@casino.org

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Ed Silverstein